Choosing the right dentist for you

Choosing the Right Dentist for You

Finding a great dentist for your needs can take a bit of time and effort. Maybe you have a fear of pain or procedures and need a dentist who will help calm your worries. You may have a health condition that needs some special attention from your dentist. Or you may be paying out-of-pocket and need care you can afford.

A good relationship with a dentist and their office is an important thing to have. Here are tips for finding the right dental care for your oral health needs.

Think About Your Needs

  • Do you have insurance? You’ll want to find a dentist that accepts your insurance plan.

  • Will you pay out-of-pocket? Ask what the rates are for self-pay patients.

  • Do you need special care? If you have certain health conditions, such as diabetes, you may want a dentist with experience in treating patients with your needs. Or you may need a wheelchair-accessible office, or have a child with special needs.

  • Do you have dental anxiety? You can find a dentist who knows how to help soothe your concerns.

  • Do you need a dentist near your home or office? Think about where you’ll most often be when leaving for appointments.

  • What times of day work best for you? Some dentists open early, stay open late, or have Saturday hours.

Ask for Recommendations

To find dentists in your area, start by checking with those in the know. You can:

  • Ask friends, neighbors, or coworkers.

  • Contact your local or state dental society.

  • Look in the American Dental Association (ADA) member directory at

  • Ask your current dentist for recommendations if you’re moving to a new area.

Look at Your Options

Make a short list of dentists to choose from. Then you may want to call their offices and ask questions before booking an appointment. Ask questions such as: 

  • Is the dentist a member of a professional organization, such as the ADA? Members of certain groups have to comply with specific ethical and professional standards.

  • What services are performed in the office?

  • When would you be referred to a specialist?

  • How is payment handled?

  • What are the office hours?

  • What are their policies for canceling or missing an appointment?

  • What happens if you need emergency dental care? Many dentists have agreements with other offices or referral services.

  • How does the dental team keep up-to-date on new techniques? They may attend continuing education sessions, for example.

At Your First Appointment 

Pay close attention on your first office visit. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and take notes. Look for:

  • An office that’s easy for you to get to, with hours that work for you

  • An office that looks clean and seems organized

  • A dentist that explain things well and takes time to answer questions

  • Staff who are kind, considerate, and professional

  • Up-front information about fees and payment plans

Making a Decision 

Keep in mind that you may need to see more than one dentist over time until you find the right fit. Remember, you and your dentist are partners in your care. Finding a team you’re comfortable with can keep your teeth healthy for years to come.

Helpful resources

Choosing a Dentist. American Dental Association (ADA). Accessed 2013.

Complaints/Resolving Disputes (You & Your Dentist: FAQ). ADA. Accessed 2013.

You and Your Dentist: Frequently Asked Questions. ADA. Accessed 2013.

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